Princeton to Journals: Copyright Transfer No More

October 1, 2011


Princeton University has decided that Faculty will
no longer transfer copyright of Papers to Journals.


The detailed report from the University can be found here: 


Remarkable excerpts:

“In late 2010 the Dean of the Faculty appointed an ad-hoc faculty committee, comprising professors from all the divisions of the University, to study the question of open-access to faculty publications. The committee met several times in February and March 2011 and adopted this policy and report by unanimous vote.”


“We recommend a revision to the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty that will give the University a nonexclusive right to make available copies of scholarly articles written by its faculty, unless a professor specifically requests a waiver for particular articles. The University authorizes professors to post copies of their articles on their own web sites or on University web sites, or in other not-for-a-fee venues. Of course, the faculty already had exclusive rights in the scholarly articles they write; the main effect of this new policy is to prevent them from giving away all their rights when they publish in a journal.”


Close to the Autumn Equinox,
the Recommendation became Policy:

“The Faculty at its meeting of September 19, 2011 unanimously adopted this open-access policy into the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty of Princeton University.”

“The members of the Faculty of Princeton University strive to make their publications openly accessible to the public. To that end, each Faculty member hereby grants to The Trustees of Princeton University a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all copyrights in his or her scholarly articles published in any medium, whether now known or later invented, provided the articles are not sold by the University for a profit, and to authorize others to do the same.”


“The University hereby authorizes each member of the faculty to exercise any and all copyrights in his or her scholarly articles that are subject to the terms and conditions of the grant set forth above. This authorization is irrevocable, non-assignable, and may be amended by written agreement in the interest of further protecting and promoting the spirit of open access.


The report also includes the realization that in today’s Internet age, the web site of the University is as good, if not better, than the web site of the publisher, but with the added advantage that the University is committed to maximizing the public dissemination of the publications. Therefore, a University repository is called for:

“The committee recommends the creation of a University ‘repository’, types of which exist at peer institutions, that will facilitate these goals. The repository would also be available to provide links to the other posting/retrieval systems in use in other fields. Besides serving the aim of open-access, the repository will also offer a picture of the range of scholarship in the University at large.”


The Princeton Faculty arrives to this policy based on solid principles:

  • The principle of open access is consistent with the fundamental purposes of scholarship.
  • University support (tangible and intangible) for open access is consistent with other forms of university support for scholarship.
  • The primary agents of open access are the faculty; university support for open access is a form of service to the faculty intended to expand the beneficiaries of the university’s research mission.
  • A university policy on open access should recognize and respect the diversity and dynamism of disciplines, professional organizations and academic publishing—maintaining communication, flexibility and diversity as core principles of implementation.
  • Implementing a university-wide open access policy entails ongoing outreach to departments and faculty, involving the participation of chairs, managers and IT specialists—particularly in units where open access is not now the norm.


It is a new Era !

Just as Peter Murray predicted recently in his blog

It was just a matter of time for an awakening of the academic community to happen, and for all to realize that the Internet has changed everything. The educational mission of academic institutions is not well served by the closed gates of Journal whose business models use copyright as a mechanism for restricting the public’s access to information. 


The point is nicely made by Larry Lessig:

This is an edited version of Lawrence Lessig’s Lecture at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland, 18 April 2011. This lecture is released as a Creative Commons Attribution license. 


and in a funnier way,
the same point is made by Alex O. Holcombe in
“Scientist meets Publisher: The Video”


The Princeton decision, follows the Harvard Faculty decision to 

“…grant to the university a non-exclusive, irrevocable,
     worldwide license to distribute their scholarly articles
     provided it is for non commercial uses….”


As well as the creation of a Compact to support Open Access:

  • Cornell
  • Dartmouth
  • Harvard
  • MIT
  • UC Berkeley
This is all a great Prelude to the Upcoming Celebration of the Open Access Week:
  • Join us during  October 24-20, 2011 to celebrate
    the Renaissance of the academic field that raises 
    to Embrace Openness in all its forms.

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